Transformational travel stories: my 5 life-changing travel experiences
In the last few years transformational travel has become part of the travel vocabulary. Destinations and tour operators are carefully designing life-changing travel experiences to thrive travellers into conscious and responsible travellers (learn more about transformational travel).
In fact, each time we travel we see new wonderful places, meet local communities and other travellers, learn from different cultures, taste traditional food.
Some experiences impress us more than others, some will be treasured in our memories, bringing back a smile on our face, making us feel that same emotion, perceiving a smell.
Some are so strong that can even transform our way of seeing things once we are back home, driving us to change our attitude or habits in everyday life.
Each travel has the power to transform us, but only if we are travelling with an open mind and open heart.
I have many emotional memories of my travels, some that brought me sad feelings making me think over some important issues, others that gave me so much joy and opportunity to grow. That’s why I am so grateful to be able to travel, to keep exploring, experiencing, learning and, hopefully, becoming a better person.
Here are some life-chainging travel experiences that have shaped me as a person.
1- We are priviledged people
My first “big” trip was when I was 16 to Kenya to visit my grandpa, who was living there at that time. I travelled with my dad and a friend of mine, we stayed with grandpa at his house in Malindi, went to the local market, seeing “real” life.
Africa is a punch in your stomach because you come face-to-face with dramatic poverty and things you usually only sees on charity or humanitarian ads. Travelling there at that age in particular was a shock because you are not still involved in the “hot issues” the world is facing every day, you live your teen life without many worries.
What I learnt there, was that you don’t have to give anything for granted, because there are people who literally have nothing, not even food.
I still remember talking with young employees of my granpa’s furniture factory who told us that their dream was to travel and come to Europe, but that their Country didn’t allow them to leave Africa unless they had a certain amount of money on their bank account (talking about something like 10 grands USD, which is already a fortune for a European, imagine for an African labourer…). Still, they worked, they smiled and kept dreaming about that day we all knew would have never come.
2- Travel (and live) more consciously and sustainably
Travelling sometimes is an opportunity to think over our everyday habits.
Living and travelling in Australia was one of the first big lesson for me on the matter of shortage of water and plastic pollution.
During my very first trip to the outback from Darwin to the Red Centre (read more about this itinerary) one of the first recommendation we were given by our guides was to not waste water. At the base camps there were notice signs in the showers and toilets asking to spare water while showering or washing your teeth because, though few people may not know, Australia is one of the driest Countries in the world.
Again in Australia during another road trip along the West Coast, we stopped at a supermarket in Gladstone to buy some meat for a barbecue and at the counter we were told they didn’t sell any plastic bag for the safe of turtles, who were an endangered species in the area, threatened by plastic pollution. It was 2009 so way before this problem became the hot topic in Europe, and even now in 2019 we are still struggling to reduce the use of plastic for packaging and so many other things.
Result, I am always closing my tap when I brush my teeth or shampoo my hair and never went shopping without my fabric or recyled bag.
I have grown more and more sensitive to the plastic-issue and trying to be more sustainable as possible reducing, recycling, drinking tap water, travelling with my water bottle and so on. It is never enough though and during one of my last trips unfortunately I faced again this hot topic.
During my last trip to Bali I met Evie, a gorgeous dancer promoter of the Balinese art and culture who is also actively involved in a international association called Trash Heroes, a group of volounteers strongly engaged in keeping the beaches clean from plastic and trying to educate the local communities. She is so keen on this topic that her family (including her 2 young boys participate to these clean-up events, live and travel sustainably using their inox travelling kit including cups, cutlery etc. avoiding to use straws, single-use plastic glasses or cutlery even on airplanes and so on. These are the sort of people I like to be inspired by.
Another life-chainging travel experience was our trip to Libaran Island during our honeymoon in Borneo, where we came face-to-face with the plastic issue. Indeed, this small island shores are washed each day with tons of plastic brought by the tide.
Walking on the beach covered with waste was a shocking experience that has pushed us to take on more seriously our efforts in reducing plastic use in our everyday life.
3- Go beyond your comfort zone
Has it ever happened to you to live an adventure while travelling that you never thought being capable of?
Personally, I’m not an adrenaline-junk type of person but I have lived some amazing experiences like skydiving, canyoning, trekking in the glaciers that have pushed me far beyond my comfort zone (read more about my 5 offlimits adventures by air, land and water).
Today, whenever I feel discouraged and a lack of self-confidence, I look back at these experiences reminding me that I am stronger than what I think and that I can achieve anything I like.
I want to clarify that going beyond your comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean doing crazy stuff, each of us has his/her own personal fears and boundaries, what is important is to try and push yourself out of your comfort zone and I can assure you will feel self-empowered and free.
4- Heal a sorrow or look for answers
We all know that travelling allows us to connect with our inner feelings and thoughts, keeping away distractions and prejudices, listening to our more intimate desires and needs.
It happened to me at least twice, to find myself travelling in very delicate moments when I was sad or simply confused and needed to take crucial decisions for my life.
First time was my first ever solo trip, booked during a particularly unstable moment for me after breaking up with my ex-boyfriend and finding myself living alone on the other side of the world. Gathered all my courage, I left for a trip to Thailand (read about my life-changing experience in this article) that helped me to disconnect from my Australian dream and think about the most important things in life for me, leading me to a very suffered decision: to leave Australia! A Country I had always dreamed of, that I had struggled to be part of and loved so much (read more about my life as an expat in Australia).
But life sometimes put us in front of certain decisions and travel can help us to choose with a clear and focused mind. It was 10 years ago, since then I returned to my home village in Italy where I found my roots and happines, so I am profoundly grateful to that trip.
Another trip that really transformed me helping to clear my mind and heal my “troubled” soul was Bali.
I booked largely in advance and the main reason was to join a dance retreat I had dreamt of for years. When time came to leave I actually found myself in a state of frustration about my life, work etc. that this trip turned out to be a gift of destiny to put order in my thoughts and give me back all the positive vibes and attitude I needed (read more about this trip Eat Travel Dance in Bali).
5- Be friend with a complete stranger
I am sure I am not the only one who have experienced the magic of meeting a complete stranger while travelling and feel absolutely at ease as if you were long-time friends. Sometimes I think it is actually easier to chat open-hearted with a stranger, probably because you don’t feel judged, you feel as if travelling bring you close together thanks to the strong experiences you are sharing.
Whichever the reason, I still perfectly remember some people I met during my travels and with whom I have shared a chat or a touching moment.
I was fascinated by Alex’s story, a German guy who was on my same tour in Fiji. We spent hours at night sitting by the pool talking about life choices and his amazing experience working with Aboriginal communities in Alice Springs.
I still remember Kati’s smile, a finnish girl I met in the Outback and used to roast marshmallows on the bonfire with. A couple of years later I found myself mourning her when she prematurely died of cancer, though I only spent 9 day tour with her.
I shared comforting hugs with Austine from Montana with whom I shared a week-long dance retreat in Bali. Both of us were going through a very sensitive moment and found ourselves crying in each other arms, without talking, without knowing the reason, but simply with the urge to soothe our sorrow.
This is also the beauty of travelling, to feel immediately very close with people of different age, nationality, cultural background, because we are all sharing the same big passion: travelling!